Most of us know that college and professional athletes sustain at least some level of injury whether they play on the court or the field. But what many of us are not aware of is the price they pay in the form of both physical and financial pain once their youthful heyday is over. Life long injuries don’t just hurt and compromise the lifestyle of aging college athletes, they cut into their personal and family budgets as well. This is largely due to the fact that most of these star athletes were never made to prepare for the real world once their short-lived career as college competitors ended.
Because colleges often “push athletes through” their academic curriculums with very little consideration for their futures, many aging athletes—and even young athletes who are severely injured in their prime—don’t have a lot to fall back on. They often suffer from poorer-than-average college education, and are ill prepared to enter any kind of real workforce outside the world of sports, which is a pretty niched place that doesn’t offer a lot of room for retired or injured players unless they became famous on the world stage in the pro leagues.
Interestingly, most college-age athletes begin college in better health than their more academic counterparts, but the wear and tear they experience on the field leaves them in worse shape than those same-age peers. Sure, they may still maintain great weight and heart health, but things like bones, cartilage, tendons, and even the central nervous system have suffered far more than the average college graduate.
All of these problems have been around for years, but a new surge in awareness has brought a heightened level of consciousness among these young athletes, and many are now mobilizing—student athletes at Northwestern, for example, are making strides toward creating an athletes’ union for their university. The unionization of college players of football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and other sports will likely go well since schools largely depend on these games to bring in revenues. With unions such as these in place for young student athletes, demands for better and longer term healthcare can be made, and team players at the big schools can be the impetus to set a new standard for athletes who begin to experience problems much later in life based on the beating they took on the field or on the court. These unions can really help to prepare them for the possible financial burden they would face with prolonged healthcare.
Professionals conducting present day studies regarding the health and physical welfare of people who played college sports 10, 20, and 30 years ago are revealing a lot about how these people are doing in their midlife—but there is a lot more work to be done, and these studies will have to come to more defined conclusions based on more numbers of athletes to be considered something more than simply anecdotal. But once such studies reveal that long-term health is affected by damage done during college sporting careers, those who withstood injuries during their college sports hurdles will have a much better chance of getting what they deserve: the healthcare paid for by the institutions they attended and played for, as well as some level of counseling to deal with the mental and psychological effects they carry in their life long after college is over. Colleges and universities who offer such assistance will be seen in a positive light by athletes who have their pick of the litter, and could well become part of their consideration as to where they plan to attend school and play ball.
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